Badlands National Park, South Dakota – Thriving life on bad land

The first Europeans and settlers called this piece of earth bad land – impossible to cross and unsuitable to cultivate. And really: Hot summers, icy winters and merciless winds whose sandstorms carry the seeds away have the flushed out prairie landscape under control. But like often inhospitality does not exclude beauty. Uncounted hills with saw-tooth-like peaks, combed through by deeply submerged canyons, rise up out of the lunar landscape. The odd sandstone formations are based on coloured horizontal layers in rose, grey, gold, and green. A seabed, a primeval forest, several layers of volcanic ashes, and in-between repeatedly erosion rock that’s washed up from the Black Hills and the Rocky Mountains form the colourful mixture. The layers hardly settled when rain and wind started their destructive works on the newly created landscape. Still today, the Badlands erode with incredible one inch per year. Anyway, they are a sanctuary of life, especially beyond the brim where soil isn’t washed away yet and prairie grasses spring up. Rattle snakes coil their way through the meadows, even the only one we see today paid for trying to cross the park road with its life. Prairie dogs build complete underground cities. The squirrels though are favourite food for one of the rarest mammals on earth: Black-footed ferrets were already exterminated when they were successfully settled again here. Like rattle snakes they don’t only eat prairie dogs, they occupy their burrows. Black-tailed deer and antelope-like pronghorns busily jump around. Approaching bighorn sheep the bucks get themselves to safety and abandon their herd, during mothers and lambs to a large extend ignore vehicles. Great guard. A coyote disappears in the high grass, but in the evening we will hear them barking and howling. Driving up the gravelled Sage Creek Rim Road into the north-western corner of the National Park we are allowed to complimentary use the primitive campground. On the way there and on the campground hundreds of buffalo peacefully graze there, unimpressed by cars and tent inhabitants.

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